Gumshoe ... Or Not

By Chelle Cordero

February 15, 2017 4 min read

Hollywood may have romanticized the notion of the handsomely rugged gumshoe (stealthy detective), but if you've ever stepped on a wad of sticky gum there is nothing romantic about it.

Many children -- and adults -- hop along, happily chewing bubble gum and testing its elasticity under less than auspicious circumstances. Disposal of a chewed-up wad isn't always well thought out. And gum can make a complete mess of things. Many a haircut has been "invented" to cover a spot where the gum was cut out.

In reality, scissors should be a last resort whether you are dealing with hair, shag carpets, upholstery or clothing. One of the most popular methods for gum removal is to freeze the sticky goop until it can simply be plucked off whatever unfortunate surface it landed on. Put a few ice cubes in a small plastic bag and rub the bag back and forth over the gum. Once hardened, the gum can be plucked off and disposed somewhere safe, like in the trash. Use the edge of a credit card to scrape off any remaining residue. You can also use a can of compressed air in lieu of the ice bag. Hold the can of compressed air upside down for about 30 seconds and then spray a few short bursts onto the gum; the can will release carbon dioxide and freeze the gum.

When short fibers are involved, such as on a microfiber couch, using an opposite approach might work better. To make the gum softer before trying to remove it dip a soft white cloth into warm vinegar and dab at the gum spot while gently peeling off the sticky mess. Using a rubber glove helps, as the soft gum will stick to the rubber. After the gum is removed, dab the area with a soft cloth moistened with plain water to remove the vinegar solution. There are citrus cleaning products containing the active ingredient d-Limonene, which will also soften the wad before pulling it off of fabrics; make sure you rinse the area with clear water afterward.

Heat is another way to soften gum. Use a hair dryer on low or cover the glue with a brown paper bag and iron the area on low to soften the gooey mess. These methods work quickly, so only heat the area for a few seconds at a time.

If your child comes home from school with gum in her hair, try sandwiching it between two ice cubes to harden it and pull it off. However, if attempts to remove the gum have instead tangled the gum with her hair, do not reach for the scissors yet. Massage the area with peanut butter, mayonnaise or any oil to soften the mess and pull it out of the hair. Once the gum is removed shampoo the hair to remove all traces of gum, peanut butter, mayonnaise or oil. Many parents give up in frustration and simply cut the matted area. But try to be patient; it won't be easy. If all else fails and you have to cut the hair, cut downward into the wad rather than straight across the mess. It will save more hair.

A small glob of peanut butter will also help to remove gum from upholstery or carpeting. The peanut butter coats the sticky gum and makes it easier to pull it off of fabric. Be sure to wipe the peanut butter residue with a clean damp cloth afterward.

Use a fork to gently pry the gum from carpeting or a butter knife to slide it off of fabric. Use a straight razor on hard surfaces such as countertops, wooden desks and tiled floors. Be careful to gently scrape the hard surface so as to not leave unsightly gouges behind. And if you wind up with gum on your leather shoes, freeze and scrape the gum from the bottom soles and use peanut butter if it's stuck to the leather parts (not on suede). Clean with a mild dish detergent, and finish off with leather polish.

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